The top names may have given the BILT Open a miss, but instead of looking uneasy, the organisers wore broad smiles as they discussed the reason.
Four Indians will feature in the prestigious WGC-HSBC Champions at Shanghai (co-sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours), which is being held at the same time as the Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI) meet. "It's heartening because of the 11 Asian Tour members who've qualified for Rs 33.11-crore ($ 7 million) event, four are Indians," said a PGTI official.
"As the dates clashed, Jeev (Milkha Singh), Jyoti (Randhawa), Gaganjeet (Bhullar) and C. Muniyappa had to opt out," he said about the tournament that will tee off at Greater Noida's Jaypee Greens on Thursday.
The withdrawals may have shorn the event, the domestic circuit's richest with a purse of Rs 1 crore, of some of its star value, but that seemed to have little effect on the demeanour. "It is a matter of pride for Indian golf. In their absence, we have players like Anirban Lahiri, Himmat Singh Rai and Gurki Shergill, all first-time winners on the PGTI," he said.
Flushed with their recent good run on the Asian Tour, both Lahiri and Rai, the latter came close to winning the Iskandar Johor Open, seemed eager to keep up the good times. "Shiv (Kapur) did it five years ago and earlier it was Jeev. Now it's a matter of the next generation coming through," said a buoyed Lahiri, especially after the T3 finish at the Indian Open and joint ninth in the Iskandar Johor Open.
Rana, Taunk share lead
New Delhi: A nice mix presented itself on top of the leaderboard after the first round of the LG ITC Classic Open Amateur with young Karan Taunk sharing the lead alongside the experienced Vikram Rana. Both of them returned identical rounds of two-under 70 at the Classic Golf Resort. Just one behind the duo is Pune's Aditya Bhandarkar at one-under after he carded a round of 71. Arshdeep Tiwana, Pawan Kumar and brothers Simarjeet Singh and Jasjeet Singh share the fourth spot at even-par for the tournament.